Fall 2024

American Jewish Keywords

Listed in: American Studies, as AMST-210


Wendy H. Bergoffen (Section 01)


In its “Jewish Americans in 2020” analysis, the Pew Research Center reported that nearly three quarters of Jewish American adults felt that “being part of a Jewish community” was important to them. The study also found that definitions of Jewishness and Jewish communities extended beyond religion to include ancestry and culture. What terms have come to embody American Jewish experience? In what ways have Jewish communities been constituted? What fosters healthy and vibrant communities? This course offers an introduction to American Jewish Studies and community-engaged learning. Raymond Williams defines keywords as offering a “shared body of words and meanings.” Four keywords will frame the semester—Generations, Service, Community, and Place. In each of these units, we will probe a range of materials: historical writing, sociology, literature, statistical analyses, films/documentaries, and personal narratives. Course materials will offer background and context for our engagement with communities outside the classroom. We will visit the Yiddish Book Center, the Amherst Senior Center, Not Bread Alone, and other local organizations. 

Limited to 20 students.  Fall semester.  Senior Lecturer Bergoffen.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to American Studies majors.

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Writing, collaborating, and reflecting will be central practices in this course. Students will go on several field trips (at least one on a weekend) and participate in community-engaged learning. Students will gain skills in close reading, reflective writing, and learning outside the classroom.

Course Materials


2023-24: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2024